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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Simply Balanced Tuscan Herb Multigrain Crisps

Akin to other whole grain snacks like Multigrain Wheat Thins, these Tuscan herb-flavored crisps are head and shoulders above the recently reviewed Sun-Dried Tomato Popcorn Chips. These crisps are firmer, they have more flavor, and they're more filling, yet the nutrition information of both products is virtually identical.

Just a week or so ago, my wife discovered a delicious Tuscan-themed snack in the vending machine in our building. The same chips popped up at our local grocery store, too. The brand was Good Natured, and we both fell in love with them quickly. But I've gotta say these Simply Balanced crisps give the Good Natured brand a run for its money.

They're full of crunchy whole grains, and as I mentioned before, they're much more flavorful than popcorn chips. There's even a little heat from the Italian spices. It's certainly not enough to "burn" your mouth, but it does give the product an unexpected kick.

I haven't tried it yet, but I'm guessing these chips would go great with virtually any cheese dip or salsa, and I can also see them going well with salads and soups. I could absolutely feature myself buying these on a regular basis. In my opinion, chips don't get much more impressive than this.

I give this product 9 out of 10 stars.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Archer Farms Red Velvet Cake Cookies

It has recently come to my attention that red velvet cake is very similar to just a regular chocolate cake with red coloring added. Although, I've read that some red velvet cakes are actually vanilla cakes with red food coloring added. Furthermore, the coloring is often a type of deep red cocoa, which of course affects not only the color, but also the flavor of the cake.

But more than this, I can taste a difference between red velvet cake and chocolate cake, and in almost every instance, I prefer the red velvet. And these cookies most certainly taste like a red velvet cake, but unfortunately, it's not a very good one.

The overall flavor isn't horrible. Imagine a very stale red velvet cake that's been sitting out for days. It just tastes kind of old and weird. The icing is a nice addition, although it's not white chocolate exactly. It's just "white icing." Who knows what that means? I would describe it as something in-between white chocolate and fake cream cheese, but much more stiff.

And that brings me to my next point: the texture.

It was just way the heck off.

If you've ever—you know, just out of curiosity—eaten a dog biscuit ...well, that's pretty much the texture you get here. It's a dry, crumbly, stiff texture. They tried to keep the product moist by wrapping it in plastic and stuffing each cookie way down in its own plastic slot, but to no avail. The goofy packaging just made it more difficult to remove the cookies from the box.

These cookies were a nice idea. But that's as far as I'll go. Again, the flavor isn't atrocious, just the texture and feel are. I know that I'll never make this purchase again, and I suggest you do the same unless you really love red velvet and you're feeling extra lucky. It's always possible I just got a bad batch.

But I'm thinking that's not the case. Until Target has an actual bakery right there in their grocery section like some big markets do, I don't think I'll be happy with their red velvet cookies.

I give this product 5 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Simply Balanced Mixed Berry Smoothie Bites

A smoothie in a bag, huh? This product is unique to say the least, but I'm still not really sure what to make of it. It's like the illegitimate lovechild of a trail mix and a smoothie, with some cereal DNA mixed in there somehow.

The whole thing has a strange texture. The little dehydrated strawberry slices are very similar to ones I've seen in certain cereals, like Kashi Strawberry Fields for example. They're styrofoam-like and sour at first, but then they sort of turn sweet and smooth in your mouth. It's a very strange sensation.

Likewise, the little yogurt discs are chalky, almost gritty, at first. But they give way to a more realistic yogurt texture and flavor as you chew them, and they dissolve in your mouth in a peculiar way. They're not "yogurt chips" like you'll find in certain Archer Farms trail mixes. They're a whole new animal to me. 

Once all the ingredients dissolve in your mouth, I must say there is a distinct similarity to a fresh berry smoothie, but by the time everything has gelled in your 98.6° saliva, it's no longer cold like a real smoothie would be, and you might already be a bit grossed out by that point.

Another huge drawback with this item is its three dollar price tag. Way too much for way too little. I easily ate the whole bag in one sitting. This is nothing more than a snack. And unless it comes down in price, I can't see myself ever buying this product again, although I might check out one of the other flavors just for the sake of reviewing it.

Now don't get me wrong, this product doesn't taste terrible. It's just not my cup of tea. If you think a dry berry smoothie sounds like a delicious snack, by all means, try it. I just think there are a lot better options in the food aisles at Target.

I give this product 6 out of 10 stars.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Simply Balanced Raspberry Lemonade Twisted Fruit Ropes

Just so they could add yet another term for "fruit snack" to our already cluttered and confusing food vocabulary, the good people at Archer Farms decided to call these "ropes." Not strips, or roll-ups, or twists. Ropes. Almost as appetizing as "fruit leather."

But if the product is good, of course we look past such trivial matters of semantics. Fortunately, they are good. They're individually packaged, relatively small, and they make a decent tide-me-over snack. I guess since we're purchasing the healthier "Simply Balanced" foods now we're all conscious of portion control and such. At 60 calories and 0g of fat per rope, you won't have to worry about one or two of these making you fat.

I think the inclusion of the word "lemonade" in the title of this product is mostly a marketing gimmick, although the more I think about it, there was a hint of something citrusy in the mix that might have made these a little
more tangy than just raspberry alone. Ah, there it is, "lemon juice concentrate."

But mostly, these are just sweet. There's tartness there for sure, but as you can see on the ingredients list, the main ingredients are actually apple puree and apple juice. And like the previously reviewed fruit peels, these puppies are overly moist and sticky. Fortunately, the wrapping can be peeled down as you eat the product, thus protecting your fingers from being slathered in wet appley goodness.

Good as they may be, it seems like we're just looking at a repackaging of AF's already popular strips and peels. With that being the case, we're giving these fun little twisted ropes a similar score.

I give this product 7 out of 10 stars.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Archer Farms Tiramisu Gelato

You're going to want to try this.

It's a no-brainer. I was skeptical at first, but this is tied for the best-tasting tiramisu I've ever had. And it's not even really tiramisu. It's gelato.

The first time I ever had tiramisu was in Los Angeles, about eight years ago. I was with a couple of friends, and one of them brought along this crazy French photographer guy I had never met before. He discovered that one other person in our group and I had both never tried real tiramisu, so he took us to this expensive Italian restaurant on Melrose. I insisted that I didn't want any, but he bought all of us dishes of the dessert anyway. It was like $10 for three small bites. It was ridiculous. But so good, it was almost worth the price tag.

Since then, I've tried it at a couple of less-swanky restaurants, and it has been sub-par every time. Until now.

As I mentioned before, the flavor of this gelato is excellent. The top layer tastes like the most rich's almost chocolatey. And the ice cream itself is buttery, creamy, sweet and vanilla-ish. Delicious.

There are a few swirls of the dark coffee goodness throughout the gelato, too. It's mixed-in at a pretty good ratio. There's a lot more of the plain golden ice cream, but the dark stuff is so rich, you don't need a lot of it.

The one weakness of this amazing dessert is a slight lack of texture. The creaminess of the ice cream is great, and the softness of the top layer is good...but real tiramisu is made with cookies. Ladyfingers.

If they had added ladyfinger cookies, or even just cookie bits soaked in coffee throughout the ice cream, they could have created the ultimate dessert. Also, there's carrageenan in it, which is bad for you. But it's so low on the ingredients list that we all could have overlooked that.

But seriously, if version 2.0 has little ladyfinger cookie bits all through it, you can bet I'll have heaps of this stuff stocked in my freezer all the time. Even as it stands, this is one killer gelato.

I give the tiramisu gelato 9 out of 10 stars.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Archer Farms Banana Walnut Trail Mix

This trail mix, along with the Cinnamon Raisin Mix, are labeled as "breakfast trail mixes," for those occasions in which you find yourself camping and then waking up right on the hiking trail I suppose. But just as I seldom actually eat trail mix on a literal hiking trail, I ate this trail mix at any hour of the day or packaging labels be darned. I'm a wild man. Don't try to constrain me with your serving suggestions or tell me when to eat my delicious trail mix!

My wife agrees. Good as it may be for breakfast, it's quite acceptable for second breakfast, luncheon, elevensies, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, fourthmeal, and midnight snack as well. We should know. It took us all of a day and a half to finish the bag...and we probably could have done it in a single sitting if we hadn't resisted the temptation.

Sonia says this has just replaced PB&J Trail Mix as her favorite so far. I agree. I think this one is tied with Cinnamon Raisin for my favorite.

It has a whole bunch of banana chips, big bready cookie-bite things, yogurt chunks, and walnuts. I'm not even a huge fan of walnuts, but for some reason they go great with banana...think banana bread....mmm yeah.

With the cookie bites and yogurt chunks, this trail mix is still a tad indulgent. If you're looking for a good healthy-ish mix, try the Sunny Cranberry. That would probably be my recommendation for people looking to stay on the leaner side of AF's trail mix selection.

I will eventually buy and a review a bag of the Blueberry Nut Trail Mix, but I'm still saving up for it. I think it's $7 a bag. Really. Will it be worth it? Stay tuned to find out!

Banana Walnut Trail Mix: 8 out of 10 stars.

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